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Wine 101: Acidity

February 11, 2018

Acidity, one of the major components of wine, adds a puckering, sour flavor to a bottle of wine. An otherwise dull, lifeless bottle can be transformed to a balanced, crisp, and lively bottle with the right amount of acidity. Acid also helps to keep the wine from being spoiled and ensures a longer life span in your cellar.

The most prevalent acids in wine:

  • tartaric acid
  • malic acid
  • citric acid 

Acidity can also balance a cloyingly sweet bottle of wine, and tones down the perception of alcohol on our palate. Too much acidity, however, and the bottle can be overwhelmingly bitter like biting into a fresh lemon.

Malolactic Fermentation

The process of malolactic fermentation can also decrease the tartness in wine. Have you ever tried a bottle of unoaked versus an oaked bottle of Chardonnay? The aging process turns the tart-tasting malic acid into a softer-tasting lactic acid (acid found in dairy).


Cooler climates, often Old World (European) regions, produce wines higher in acidity. Chardonnay, for example, will have a higher acidity from Burgundy, France than from warmer California. Green grapes have higher acidity and as the grapes ripen, they become sweeter and the acidity decreases. Shorter growing seasons also contribute to a tarter wine because they never get quite ripe enough.

Food Pairing with Acidic Wines

Sweet, salty, and/or fat foods tend to balance highly acidic wines which is why you see plates of cheese accompany wine. Think pork belly and a bottle of Riesling! Or even salty french fries with your next bottle of champagne!

So, which wines should I try?

If you’re partial to wines higher in acidity, try white wines from:

  • New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
  • Champagne
  • Sancerre
  • Vouvray
  • Albarino 

Though white wines tend to be more acidic than red, here are a few regions/grapes that tend to prove otherwise:

  • Beaujolais 
  • Burgundy
  • Sangiovese
  • Chianti
  • Pinot Noir
  • Nebbiolo

Low-Acid Wines

If highly acidic wines leave a bad taste in your mouth or even the thought gives you heartburn, it’s worth to try wines from warmer regions (usually New World) like California, South Australia, Chile, or Argentina. White wines like Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Torrontes are relatively low in acidity. Red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, Merlot, Zinfandel, Grenache, Malbec also tend to have higher tannins and alcohol rather than high acidity.

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